By Reagan Hoverman for Vikings.com
EAGAN, Minn. – Armon Watts is used to being the “underdog.”
In his junior year of college, he wasn’t even in a starting role on the defensive line. Now in 2019, he’s battling for a role on one of the best defenses in the NFL.
The rookie from the University of Arkansas has been working his entire life just to get a chance at the NFL. Coming out of high school at Christian Brothers College, a private preparatory school in St. Louis, Missouri, Watts was ranked as the 10th-best prospect in the state of Missouri and the 61st overall defensive tackle in the country, per ESPN.
During his junior year of high school, Watts helped his team to an 11-1 record, which resulted in a berth in the quarterfinal round of the Missouri state playoffs. Watts reflected on what his high school postseason experience meant for him when he was ready for the college level.
“It was good. Coming from a winning program, we’ve always had a history of winning. I was blessed to have some good players and to be around some good coaches,” Watts said.
As Watts was preparing to choose a college, the offers just kept coming. He received offers to play college football from Missouri, Kentucky, Cincinnati and Wisconsin. He ultimately decided that he wanted to be a Razorback and play for Arkansas in his redshirt freshman year of 2015. Watts decided to major in Recreation and Sports Management. In the 2014-2015 academic year, he earned himself a spot on the First-Year SEC Academic Honor Roll.
Although he was having success in the classroom, he still wasn’t getting much playing time on the field. From 2015-2017 – his freshman through junior year of football – he had only amassed seven tackles on a total of 114 snaps.
View images from the Vikings training camp practice on August 12 at TCO Performance Center.
That all changed going into his senior year in 2018.
Watts became one of the centerpieces on the Arkansas defense, playing 621 snaps and ranking first among linemen on the team with 49 total tackles and recording a team-best 7.0 sacks.
“I had to change my mindset. It was my last year, and it was either all or nothing,” Watts said. “Getting my body where I wanted it to be, finding the things that worked for me at my position, and once I was able to figure that out, I was able to make it happen.”
His significant boost in his senior season at Arkansas put him in a prime position to get drafted. The Minnesota Vikings did exactly that in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Considering his frame and the abilities that he possessed coming out of college, comparisons were being drawn to another Viking, Shamar Stephen.
“It’s good for me. I look up to guys like Shamar, Linval [Joseph], and guys like that. Just to be part of this program and learn from him and what he’s done in this program, I’m just taking notes. I’m trying to get into my spot and where I need to be,” Watts said.
Here are three other topics that Watts covered with Vikings.com:
1. You support the Raptors with your Twitter account. Are you a Kawhi Leonard fan, or is there another reason?
“No, actually one of my best friends, that I’ve known pretty much forever, plays for the Raptors. His name is Patrick McCaw. So, whatever team he plays for, that’s what team I’m going to cheer for.”
2. If you had one “cheat day” meal, what would it be?
“Probably a burger with cheese and turkey bacon, pretty much any kind of burger, I’m going for it.”
3. If you had to pick, who’s your favorite player in NFL history and why?
“Before the Vikings, I would probably say Tom Brady. Just because he symbolizes what it’s like to win. Come to work every day for 20-some years, that’s not easy to do. I feel like he’s always playing with a chip on his shoulder, and he’s always got something to prove, I like a guy like that.”